M Shed to tell stories of migration in new display featuring loans from the British Museum  

Two high-profile loans from the British Museum will be on display at M Shed in Bristol this summer.

‘Crossings: community and refuge’ is touring the Lampedusa cross around the UK for the first time, arriving at M Shed this Saturday (18th June).

The display is made from remnant of a boat which carried refugees and shipwrecked near the Italian island of Lampedusa.

In October 2013, an overcrowded boat carrying 466 migrants from Somalia and Eritrea caught fire, capsized and sank near Lampedusa’s coast. A total of 311 lives, fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in Europe, were lost. Moved by the plight of survivors, the island’s carpenter, Francesco Tuccio, made an individual cross for each person.

Tuccio also made larger crosses that he gifted as a plea for discussion about community and responsibility. The British Museum acquired one of these crosses in 2015, simply made from two pieces of brightly painted wood fitted together.

Alongside the cross will be a display of 12 tiny boats from Syrian-born Issam Kourbajʼs series ‘Dark Water, Burning World’, made from repurposed bicycle mudguards tightly packed with burnt matches to represent the fragile vessels used by refugees to make their perilous voyages across the Mediterranean. Seeking to evoke the plight of Syrians, these were made by Kourbaj as a response to the ongoing tragedy in Syria.

Accompanying the displays will be interviews from five refugees/immigrants who currently live in Bristol. The aim of these interviews is to give an insight into the motivations and hardships behind migration.

One of the stories told in the display is from Ken Macharia who came to Bristol to study mechanical engineering in 2009. As an openly gay man, he felt it was unsafe to return to Kenya where people are imprisoned for homosexuality. In 2019 he faced deportation by the Home Office and team-mates from the rugby club he plays for rallied round and helped to gain 180,000 signatures for a petition. He now lives in here with refugee status.

You can see the exhibition from 18th June to 18th September. Entry is free.

Kamui Oshino

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